With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States nearing 3.5 million and rising, more states, local jurisdictions and businesses are mandating facial coverings for residents and customers.
Gov. Kay Ivey of the southern state of Alabama ordered all residents to begin wearing masks effective Thursday, as the state reported nearly 50 new deaths on Wednesday. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has imposed mandatory masks at all indoor public settings in counties where four more people have tested positive for COVID-19.
The nation’s largest retailer, Walmart, is the latest to require customers to wear masks at all of its more than 5,000 outlet stores, joining the likes of tech giant Apple, coffeehouse chain Starbucks, electronics retailer Best Buy, and discount retailer Costco.
But a handful of state leaders have refused to order mandatory face coverings despite an average of more than 60,000 new coronavirus cases per day in the U.S. since early June. One such governor is Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt, who announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Stitt, a Republican, attended President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa last month, which health experts believe likely contributed to a spike in COVID-19 cases there.
Another governor who has declined to issue a statewide order requiring masks is Ron DeSantis of Florida, which has surpassed 300,000 confirmed cases and where the number of new infections reached a crisis point, as hospitals are near or at full capacity.
Florida is one of several states across the southern and western U.S. undergoing a surge of coronavirus infections and deaths, including Arizona, Texas and California. Organizers of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade, held on New Year’s Day in the southern California city of Pasadena, announced Wednesday that it has canceled the 2021 edition due to the pandemic.
With the death toll in the United States now well above 137,000, a new model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is now projecting the number of people to die from COVID-19 will reach 224,000 people by November 1, an increase of 16,000 from a prior forecast.